Honouring our Grandmothers

New graduate award in rehabilitation medicine creates space for Indigenous perspectives

Rob Curtis - 08 July 2020

Elizabeth Moon was a grandmother and a teacher who was dedicated to helping people and advancing her community. She has already inspired one career in occupational therapy, and will soon be inspiring many more through a scholarship newly established in her honour. 

Elizabeth’s granddaughter, Michele Moon, was a high school student planning to become a teacher, when Elizabeth experienced a stroke. “I spent a lot of time with her as she was recovering,” remembers Michele. “From that, I decided I wanted to become an occupational therapist.” 

Michele, who is now the alumni representative in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, has since built a very successful career in the occupational therapy field. During her time teaching at the University of Alberta, she played an integral part of the development of the Department of Occupational Therapy’s Indigenous Focus. Students who choose this focus as part of their studies pursue a combination of learning options, including the Faculty of Native Studies' Indigenous Canada’s massive open online course, fieldwork opportunities in Indigenous communities and course assignments focusing on Indigenous peoples. 

“It was a gift for me to have the opportunity to work on the Indigenous Focus,” says Michele, who received her BSc OT in 1992 from the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine and her MSc in Health Promotion from the School of Public Health in 2005. “I learned so much, and it was one of the most pivotal times in my career. It challenged a lot of my beliefs and assumptions, and has shaped the way I look at healthcare and rehabilitation professions.” 

Now, Michele and her partner Dan Sander, ’94 LLB, are continuing the journey that began with the Indigenous Focus by creating the Honouring our Grandmothers Indigenous Graduate Award in Rehabilitation Medicine, a scholarship grounded in the fundamental importance of lived experience and knowledge, as Michele’s and Dan’s grandmothers had significant positive influence in the shaping of their lives. 

“The scholarship goes beyond the financial support,” says Michele. “Our hope, and the faculty’s hope, is to create spaces where the lived experiences and knowledge of individuals in Indigenous communities can be honoured and at the forefront.” 

The award will be given annually to an Indigenous student based on their academic standing and their involvement in community building, rehabilitation or mental health and wellness initiatives. 

“The scholarship recipients themselves will be able to shape the future of rehabilitation. As the professions are influenced by students, and then by faculty and staff, we’re all going to be better health-care providers.” 

For more information on the Honouring our Grandmothers Indigenous Graduate Award in Rehabilitation Medicine, please contact John Voyer at jvoyer@ualberta.ca or 780-248-5781.